West Liberty Foods fights food insecurity during pandemic

Members of the Iowa Food Bank Association, Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg (center), and West Liberty Foods Vice President of Operations Luis Villalobos, Chairman Bob Hill, and Vice President Andy Jasper (right) with part of a shipment of 74,000 pounds of turkey bologna. The Iowa Foodbank Association purchased the bologna from West Liberty Foods using CARES Act money.

WEST LIBERTY, Iowa–Across the state and across the country, food pantries have struggled to keep up with the needs of their communities due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. As the pandemic continues to cause food insecurity, West Liberty Foods has worked to reduce it by participating in several food assistance programs.

In late September, West Liberty Foods provided the Iowa Food Bank Association with 74,000 pounds (or 37 tons) of turkey bologna. The Iowa Food Bank Association, in conjunction with The Feeding Iowa Task Force (which consists of representatives from the governor’s office, department of agriculture, and department of human services, as well as from the food bank association) purchased the bologna with federal CARES Act money and will distribute it to foodbanks across the state.

Along with supporting the Iowa Food Bank Association, West Liberty Foods has given 1.2 million pounds of chicken to the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program. This program distributes perishable food items to food banks and community groups to then pass on to those who have lost jobs due to the pandemic and need assistance feeding their families.

On a longer term basis, West Liberty Foods delivers beef, chicken, ham, turkey, and cheese to the Food Bank of Iowa. Each year, the company supplies around 30,000 pounds of food.

West Liberty Foods Vice President and General Counsel Dan Waters shared that West Liberty Foods takes pride in taking care of their community and Iowans in general by providing food for a variety of outreach programs. “We believe it is important to give back to the communities where our customers, employees, and owners live and work,” he said.

Though the pandemic has affected West Liberty Foods itself, with the company experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak in the spring and having to deal with a drop in sales resulting from restaurant closures. Waters says business has improved, allowing them to shorten planned furloughs. Originally projected to last 18 weeks, Waters indicated West Liberty Foods will only furlough a portion of their workers for six weeks. “During that time, some of our employees who work in evisceration, cut-up, and raw pack at our West Liberty facility may be placed on temporary furlough if we cannot find work for them elsewhere in the plant,” he elaborated. Waters added that employees furloughed will still receive unemployment benefits, supplemental pay from West Liberty Foods, and have their health insurance premiums covered.